My early morning devotional led me to the third book of John–his letter to Gaius. And in this book there is only one chapter, 14 verses, and in that one chapter, there is a powerful message. Now I have to admit the only verse I was familiar with in this chapter was verse four and it was highlighted in my Bible. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)

Have I ever heard this chapter of the Bible preached, the story told? Have I ever read it for myself, truly read it? The walls of the sanctuary doesn’t seal out the world and its deafening noise. It is up to us to ask for a cleansing of our heart in times of worship.

The writer of the devotional titled her story, “Love Beyond Borders” and she used John’s letter to his friend and missionary Gaius as a basis for her lesson–the need for us to spread the truth, spread love, not only with our neighbors and those we know–but with strangers alike.

John wrote the letter to Gaius praising him for his ministry–for his testimony, for his love toward his brethren, strangers, and his faithfulness.

For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. (3 John 1:3)

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers: Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well. (3 John 1:5-6)

And as John closed out his letter to Gaius he said he had many more things to write, but he would not. He would save his thoughts until they would saw each other and could speak–face to face.

And here is where my lesson from the book of third John was revealed. Devotionals are like this–they lead us to pondering on the writer’s message and can often times lead us deeper into God’s word.

I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee. But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. (3 John 1:13-14)

I can imagine Gaius sitting on a large rock alone–folding the cherished letter from his dear friend and mentor. And as he folded it he did so with a smile and a heart filled with gratitude as he reflected on the encouragement John gave as well as the anticipation of seeing him soon–face to face.

Wonder what more John wanted to say?

I think back when I had the honor of sharing and writing others’ stories and having them featured in our local newspaper and the many oral history projects I did while in college. Many of the interviews had to be conducted by phone or through email because of people’s schedules or the distance between us. But there was this difference in sitting side by side, face to face–hearing and listening to their stories. A big difference.

I saw faces light up with joy–eyes filled with tears–nervous, fidgeting hands–heads bowed. And I saw unspoken hurt. I heard unbridled laughter–heard unexpected raw emotions. And question after question I would ask and then they would say something completely unexpected and my planned interview would go flying out the window. Their words would trigger other questions and thoughts and they would respond and at that moment–that special moment I knew–there is the heart of their story. There it is. And God in those moments was teaching me to let go of what I thought I knew and focus on the person in front of me and what they were actually teaching and sharing with me–stories that still and will forever hold a place in my heart.

Perhaps John knew it was his time to be silent and hear from Gaius, how he was–what he needed in his ministry–how he could be of more help. Maybe John needed to see Gaius and just hear his voice.

We all need community. We all need conversation. We all need inspirational stories. We all need encouragement. We all need each other.

The past year has been one of isolation for all of us in one way or another. Each of us with our own fears and worries. Hidden behind masks and computer screens–virtual this and virtual that–glass cages it seems. But if we are truly honest this isolation didn’t start a year ago–it’s always been around. It’s hidden in the lonely of shut-ins, the elderly, the widows, the downtrodden, in the heart of a scared child, a misunderstood teenager. There is this suffering of isolation in all of us. But within that isolation we all have a choice–we can be a part of the healing–other’s healing and our own healing. We can choose to do more for others–love more–pray more–encourage more along the way whether it be by the sharing of our stories, sending a written letter or card, dropping a small ‘I’m thinking of you’ gift on the front porch or picking up the phone and dialing a number, hearing a voice on the other line, and knowing without sight–they are smiling.

John needed Gaius’ fellowship and encouragement as much as Gaius needed his.

I was sitting across from him in a chair, the seat was well worn and made the creaking sounds of an old wooden floor that many a footstep had walked. This elderly man surrounded by his life’s work as the owner of a country hardware store. A place where if only the walls could have talked, the building would not have been able to contain the history and laughter and conversation of this place. And me, there I was with my notepad of prepared questions and my recorder. And we began the interview and question after question he would answer humbly, sometimes full of laughter in conversation and a few times he would point at me with a smile and say, ‘don’t write that down’. And my pen would take a rest and the recorder, turned to silence. And we would talk. Just talk. About the good ole days and the hard days and the hope of the promise of the days to come.

Writer’s notes: I started this blog a few years ago to share God’s word and glorify His name and uplift others through encouragement, inspiration, and story. We all need Him and we all need encouragement and inspiration. We all need stories. If you have a God story or know someone who has one or a story idea of a need that you feel would uplift and help others and most importantly bring honor and glory to Him, I would love to hear more and possibly feature your story here or in future storytelling projects. Please email me your at abeautifulgraceco@gmail.com.

Liz Curtis Higgs, one of my most favorite Christian writers and Bible teachers was teaching a series on her book, The Women of Christmas during the month of December and on this night she was teaching about Anna the prophetess.  

Higgs started out her teaching with a word about Anna and the setting for her story–Mary and Joseph bringing baby Jesus into the temple and Simeon holding him high and then Anna came in that instant (Luke 2:38) to see the Messiah.  Higgs also brought focus to the fact that Anna was an older lady still working and serving the Lord.  

And then she said this, ‘Ladies, I have to stop right here and say this, Why do we discount ourselves because of our age?  Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we sabotage ourselves?  Forty-year-olds say they have missed their opportunity.  Sixty-year-olds say it’s too late. And seventy and eighty-year-olds say, I just can’t do what I used to do.’

Higgs goes on to say, ‘Ladies, do not disrespect or say things like that to yourself–belittle yourself.  Your age is impressive!’ 

And I had to push the replay button again and again to soak in her words.   

Many women today believe it’s too late or their time has passed for them to pursue their dreams, make a difference for others, serve God.  And we drown ourselves in our own doings–in negativity, doubt, and sadly, even with discouragement from others. 

But God’s word says this….

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 

Sarah, the Bible describes her as “old”, “well-stricken in age”.  And she conceived and had Isaac. (Genesis 18:11) 

Elizabeth, the angel told Mary, “thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age’ (Luke 1:36)

Sarah and Elisabeth’s babies, both were miracle babies, part of God’s plan at the time.  

Now I don’t believe God will ask any of us to bear children in our old age–but He could, if it was His will. 

For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37

Anna, the Bible states “she was of a great age” and had been serving the Lord in the temple day and night, praying and fasting. She was a widow and had committed many years to the service of the Lord.  (Luke 2:36-38)

Mother Teresa, she began serving the poor at the age of 18, first as a teacher, then on the streets of India and continued to serve until she died at the age of 87.  

Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing her childhood memories when she was in her fifties and at the age of 64, her first children’s book, Little House in the Big Woods was published, followed by eight more books in the series.  Her books are still being read and loved throughout the world by children and adults.

The young age of 63 and this lady was part of my graduating class at Salem College and oh what a delight she was. She had been in education most of her life as a teacher assistant and she wanted something more. She wanted to become a teacher.  

And there are so many more women of age…..

Every year that we are blessed with another birthday, it is another day of grace.  Another opportunity to learn something new, serve Him, and serve others. To make a difference in someone’s life.  

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

Each season in our lives is for a purpose, so let’s use the gift of age well. For as long as we have a heartbeat and breath to inhale, God has something for each of us to do. 

It is not too late.

Let us embrace our age. For it is a gracious gift from the Lord. 

After a long day at school and even a longer ride on the bus, it was always good to get to the place I called home.  On any given afternoon I would find my Mama busy in the house, her foot pressed hard in the pedal while watching the beautiful fabrics glide through the needle casing on her Singer sewing machine.  And on special days my doll would be propped up on my dresser in my bedroom adorning a new dress where my Mama took time out of her busy day to bring a smile to her little girl’s face. 

For several years Mama made draperies and curtains for others and clothes for me.  Not all my clothes were stitched by Mama, mostly my Sunday go-to-church dresses. I had some store-bought clothes as a little girl.  Looking back and feeling rather ashamed now, I was never as grateful for those “handmade” dresses as I was those “store-bought” ones.  I can still remember one of my friends telling me I was “lucky” my Mama made my dresses and especially clothes for my dolls.  

Any one that knows my Mama knows she has hands that have never been idle.  Sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, hands dug deep in the dirt in her flower beds–her hands have always been busy. Doing for her family, doing for others. And over the years her hands have wrinkled and aged, but never have they slowed. 

Busy hands are blessed hands.   

Photo by Jill Miller Woodie

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)

Mama taught me the joy of having busy hands, like her Mama taught her.  And to be honest I didn’t always enjoy the learning as a young girl but looking back now, I’m grateful she took the time to show me the little things that I wanted to learn and some things I didn’t want to learn. 

 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. (Proverbs 31:13)

The past few weeks I have been rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Laura’s Ma, Caroline worked from sunrise to sundown–cooking, gardening, preserving food, cleaning, sewing, mending, and so much more.  Laura and Mary  helped with the chores, learning from their Mama and on many nights before bedtime the two girls were described as ‘sitting by the fire sewing on their 9 patch quilts.’

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:16) 

The stories also told were of Pa making the long trek to town every so often and sometimes he would come back with calico, wrapped in brown tissue which meant new dresses for Laura, Mary, baby Carrie, and Ma and they would be overjoyed with what seems to us now as such a simple gift.    

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.  (Proverbs 31:19) 

My Mama told me a similar story of her Daddy, my Grandpa going into town and coming back with feed sacks filled with flour and grains.  And she knew the colorful sacks with stripes and pretty flowers would be used for new dresses for her and her sisters.  

A favorite story of mine in the New Testament is about a seamstress.  Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, a disciple in Joppa and the scriptures describe her as a “woman full of good works and almsdeeds which she did” (Acts 9:36, KJV).  She sewed coats and clothing for the widows of the community.  She touched these women in a mighty way. Dorcas died and they mourned her death, “weeping” the Bible says. (Acts 9:39, KJV). They called the disciple Peter to her home and while he was there they showed him the many garments and coats she had made for them.  

Dorca’s story is so much more than just a needle and thread and garments and coats. Her story is about the giving of self, the using of her talents and gifts to help others–the miracle of being raised from the dead, and the faith of her friends calling for Peter to come to her home. The Bible doesn’t speak of this, however we might picture through her story she taught many others to sew with a needle and thread.  But this we do know, she sowed the seeds of love, kindness, and loving her neighbor as herself, like Jesus.  

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20) 

Her little voice was loud over the receiver–almost out of breath.  ‘Granna, I need you to buy me some needles and thread and cloth and buy you some needles and thread.  You and me are going to make dresses and shirts–matching dresses for me and Mama, and matching shirts for my brother and Daddy to wear.  And Granna, I know what colors I want.  Red and green.’ 

And I said with a whole lot of joy and some doubt of the learning ahead, ‘How about let’s start out with something smaller, like doll clothes?  Something a little easier?’ 

‘No, Granna.  Dresses and shirts!’ she said in her determined six-year old voice. 

Oh boy!  This Granna better be oiling up the sewing machine, buying more needles, thread and fabrics of red and green so I can teach my eager little granddaughter what my Mama taught me, and her Mama taught her, and what her Mama taught her, and the many women who continue to teach us well.

Busy hands are blessed hands. 

It would have been much easier for Him to walk away.  Run to the silence, time alone with His Father. Time, no doubt He desperately needed to grieve and prepare for the next road of His ministry.  But He stayed with His followers. Twice.  Because they needed Him. 

And His disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:12)

Jesus had just heard the news of the cruel killing of John the Baptist. The prophet who preached in the wilderness of His coming–of His ministry. The friend who baptized Him. His cousin.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; (Luke 1:76) 

 A man who many thought was the Messiah, but John was quick to say, He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. (John 1:27) 

After hearing of John the Baptist’s death, the Bible tells us that Jesus left by ship and went to a desert away from others and when the people found out, they followed Him, by foot.  

And Jesus seeing the great crowd of people and their condition, He forgot about His need and saw their need more. The Bible says He “was moved with compassion” (Matthew 14:14) because of them.  Mark wrote (Mark 6:34), “because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things.” 

He healed their sickness and ailments. He taught them about His heavenly Father. And when the day was coming to a close, the disciples told Jesus He needed to send the people away. Home, for they were miles from the villages, they needed to go and buy food. There was nothing to eat in the desert.  

And again, it would have been easier to send them away as the disciples had suggested but Jesus was about His Father’s work and He said unto the disciples, They need not depart; give them to eat. (Matthew 14:16)

This is the part in the story I believe the disciples might have forgotten for a brief moment His power and who He was, for anything was and is possible with God.  

The disciples said, We have but five loaves and two fishes. (Matthew 14:17, Mark 6:38).

And Jesus said to bring what they had to Him and then He told the crowd of 5000 to sit down on the grass (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:39) and He looked up to His Father and blessed the food. The disciples, they served the people. And they ate until they were full and there remained twelve baskets full of leftovers–possibly one for each disciple for the next road ahead.  

The story of the five loaves and two fishes–it is a story many of us learned as children. The lessons,  often overlooked because of the familiarity of the story.  But the beauty of God’s Holy Word is this–each time we read and study His love letter to us–if we are willing to open our hearts and minds, He will show us even more to His story.   

It wasn’t just the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, Jesus fed their souls, teaching them.  He fed their earthly bodies with food.  He healed the sick.  He provided for His disciples’  journey to come.   He even told them where to sit–not just on grass, on the green grass. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass (Mark 6:39) 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:2)

Jesus gave them His best.  And He brought glory and honor to His heavenly Father.  

The multitude, what if they had not followed relentlessly,  they would have missed Jesus. His miracles. His providing of all their needs. And the disciples, if they would have had their way about the story, they would have sent the people home, to town to buy food, they would have missed it all. Another miracle. His provision for them.   

Their souls fed, bodies healed, hunger satisfied, Jesus directed the crowd and His disciples to go another way and He went upon a mountain, alone. 

And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. (Matthew 14:22-23)

Yes, it’s easier some days to take the road more travelled, hurry along in life, never giving second thought to another’s need, only our own.  I’m glad Jesus isn’t like that.  

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34) 

And the  snow begins to fall again softly, and there are forty or more cardinals in my front yard, in the trees, at the feeder. Too many to count.  And the Creator, He takes time for us, giving grace–even in the smallest of details. 

I opened the blind above my kitchen window letting in the early morning dark and there it was. A little shrub shaped like a Christmas tree in my neighbors’ front yard–twinkling colored lights–shining in the darkness. Now normally I’m not a fan of Christmas lights or decorations before Thanksgiving–but 2020, it was not a normal year. And on this morning that little Christmas shrub– it stood as a beacon of hope–a comfort for me. A reminder, CHRISTmas was coming.

And today it’s a welcoming for 2021. Goodbye to 2020. The past year brought us darkness on many, many days, but never doubt the Light, the flame it never flickered. The ember never became dull. He was in 2020, and still in 2021 the same bright light. For all the world to see.

John 1:4-9, In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 8:12, Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

God, He’s still here. He sees our tomorrows, our hearts, our dreams, our struggles. Hears our prayers, collected every tear of 2020–kept a record of them in heaven.

Psalm 56:8, Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

How is it I’ve looked out that same window every single morning and never once gave the little Christmas tree shrub a second thought–a second look, never saw its’ beauty until I saw it shine in a different way. And on the first morning of 2021, the Christmas lights are no longer lit on the little shrub, but it is still standing green and full of life–gathering and shining the Lord’s glory in the early morning rain.

In 2021, it seems we all need to do more gathering of His glory–be a light. Gather His glory in the every day–see His beauty in the simple, in the forgotten. Gather His goodness, His grace, and His hope. Gather in His glory leaning closer to Him in prayer, in His word and in His love. Gather up more thankfulness and know where all blessings flow on the good days as well as the hard days. Gather His glory and keep it close to our hearts–love Him–love our neighbors as ourselves, and shine our light brightly for others to see Him, in 2021.

II Corinthians 12:9, And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


She could have shut the door–said the words–I’m tired. Go away. I can’t do this anymore. Not today.

But Rahab the Harlot, a woman included in Jesus’ family tree, she didn’t close the door. She did the opposite–she opened it wide.

What if Rahab had specifically prayed these words–God, please send the kindness of two godly men to my door. Make them different, so I will know they have been sent by you. Rescue me Lord, out of this wicked city—out of my personal darkness. Rescue my mother, my father, my family. Protect my family God, like you did the children of Israel.

Consider this–what if Rahab had prayed day and night this prayer long before the soldiers knocked on her door? Her prayers may have included the asking of the desires of her heart–be a mama–a wife–to be loved.

She knew of His power. She knew of His strength. She knew of His wrath. And she knew of His protection and rescue for the children of Israel.

God’s messengers, they came. And Rahab, she hid the spies and because of her kindness, her belief–her holding on–she and the soldiers made a covenant.

Joshua 2:11-13–And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.

Joshua 2:18–Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.

Joshua 2:21– And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

And she waited for their return. And it wasn’t just a few hours she waited. It was days–maybe even weeks.

And God through the obedience of Joshua–this time when the soldiers came knocking on Rahab’s door, it wasn’t just two men God sent. The Bible says, “about forty-thousand”. Forty-thousand!!

Can you imagine the heartbeat of Rahab when she saw the forty-thousand coming toward Jericho–hearing the marching of their footsteps? Their voices silent.

Joshua 4:13–About forty-thousand prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.

Joshua 6:17–And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers we sent.

Joshua 6:26–And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day: because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

There are days when we ask ourselves, can we make it another day? And why, why are we holding on? What will tomorrow look like? Will tomorrow even come? Riots, disrespect of leaders and law enforcement, the lack of kindness–the lack of unity, the hurting of children, women, men, financial problems, cancer, the Covid virus, death……

When our lives feel like a tornado spinning, taking us down into a deep, dark hole….when we can’t take another tragedy…another senseless death…another breaking news report….when troubles seem to overwhelm our hearts, cloud our minds—

We need to ask ourselves, just who are we holding on to?

Are we placing our confidence and hope in elected officials more than God?

Rahab’s assurance in her family’s safety–her rescue, it was not determined by her faith in the red rope that swayed outside her window, nor in the messengers’ promises or even in God’s servant, Joshua. She held on to her only hope, the one the blood red rope represented, and that was God.

Titus 2:13—Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ

61 Days

I’ve heard it said, ‘I can’t wait until 2020 is over. Done.’

But how is it we wish our days away when every precious moment of life is an undeserved gift?

October is ending tomorrow. The calendar turns one more page and sixty-one days remain in the year 2020.

It’s been a hard year.

2020 will be written in history as the year of the pandemic.  The year of the quarantine. The year of COVID. The year when our church doors closed.  The year our schools and businesses closed. The year where our loved ones were in hospitals and nursing homes alone—and there, many died alone. The year where kindness seemed almost foreign and the year where the problems of this divided nation could not be discussed in a civil manner, but where people went straight for the juggler in hatred and criticism. 

 The year 2020 will also be remembered as one where families spent more time together.  Children played outside more.  Teachers taught in empty classrooms. And it was a year where parents and grandparents gained a whole new respect for their children’s teachers and when a high school student said, ‘I hate this mask. But if I get to come to school, I will gladly wear it.’  

Many worked from home and meetings were held virtually. People planted more gardens–preserved more food.  We watched church services on computer screens and children and adults were still giving their hearts to Jesus. And His kingdom grew in numbers. Our essential workers, they worked tirelessly serving others. Our healthcare–nurses and doctors–tired and overworked—they not only served and worked as health care workers—they became family to their patients.

Sixty-one days.

So how is it we plan to spend the last sixty-one days of this hard, crazy, heartbreaking, sometimes overwhelming year of 2020? 

We have a choice, you know. And no, not one of us is promised the breath of another moment–another day. But that doesn’t mean we don’t plan for tomorrows.

Are we going to lean in closer to His grace and mercy–count our blessings? Love one another deeper? Pray more? Listen more than we speak? Live together more united than divided? Give more? Be the hands and feet of Jesus more?

November 1st–the last sixty-one days of 2020 begins. And what if we could give thanks TOGETHER. What if everyday when we wake to another sunrise, we thank God for another day. What if everyday we take more time to notice. What if everyday we take more time to say hello and smile through masks. What if everyday we intentionally look for ways where we can give more. What if everyday before our eyes close in sleep, we reach for a pen and paper and write down three things or more that we are thankful for. And what if in the next 61 days we reach more for His word, rather than for our remotes and cell phones.

For sixty-one days. What if?

What if we could all just join hearts, and give thanks, TOGETHER.

If you would like a free download of the Let’s Give Thanks TOGETHER, please email abeautifulgraceco@gmail.com

The writing spider

There’s this writing spider, she’s known as a “common garden” spider and she has taken up residence in my flower garden. Now, please keep reading because like many of you–I don’t like spiders either. I’m the one who found a large water spider in my closet–the size and resemblance of a tarantula. And in my panic and infinite wisdom, I ran and got the bug spray and drenched the spider with the poison until it fell to the floor. And me, feeling much relieved looked around and my clothes–every piece of clothing in my closet had to be removed, washed, and the closet aired out. It took days.

Over the years the daisy mum has grown almost to the size of a bush rather than a flower–stems large and the bush, so weighted that it split to the point of making this wide ugly hole in the flower garden. My plans were to cut the flower down even before it bloomed but the rains came and the blooms, well, I decided to wait until the cold set in.

One day I was out in my flower garden I noticed a spider had spun its web in the hole like a bridge joining and pulling the oversized bush of daisies back together. And I remembered a few years ago a good friend of mine told me the spider was called a writing spider–harmless she said. So I did some more research and it turns out there is nothing “common” about this garden spider and I would later learn the writing spider who made a home among my daisies has a story all her own.

Writing spiders are orb-weavers and they spin their webs from the softness of silk that is said to be strong and more pliable than steel. Their webs are beautiful, very detailed, formed in circular formations, and have zig-zag patterns. And they make their homes in places where they will not be disturbed, where they can find rest.

I have been watching her for several weeks now from a distance standing afar through the lens of my camera. And one afternoon I noticed the spider has lost two of her legs on one side of her body since she first came to the garden. But what I saw even more surprising was this–on her back are two of the tiniest of hearts. And God, only He can create a creature as small as a spider and adorn its back with the yellowest of hearts.

At first glance, from a distance we only see a small portion of someone’s story or think what we see–and there we are often quick to judge and tear down. But when we take the time to lean in close with less judgment and more compassion and kindness, we may just be amazed of what we will learn about another’s story, and of ourselves.

And the writing spider, she’s still in the garden and research says her egg sack she has carefully woven and protected, very few of the eggs have a chance of surviving to adulthood. She, herself was one of those predictions–a slim chance of survival–and here she is fighting against the odds for her children. And no matter how broken she may seem, the “common” spider with the two yellow hearts on her back–made by God–she’s weathering the storms, writing her story among the daisies.

tHE Porch Rocker

The colors kept peeling–grain by grain as the tiny sander hummed the only song it knows how to sing. The colors–the darkest of scarlet, ocean blue, and white.

This old rocking chair, it’s been in my family for years, a staple on the small front porch at my Grandparents’ home. The plan for the rocking chair on this day–a sanding of the old away and a fresh coat of paint–black to match the porch railing–black to compliment the new beehive yellow paint on the doors.

And the more the sander sang, layers of stories ingrained in that old rocker fell to the concrete–dust particles of memories covered the floor of a garage where I used to ride my bicycle as a child–hours upon hours, round and round, and me, singing Jesus loves me.

Brand new the rocking chair was red and I really don’t know whether my Grandpa Lackey bought the rocker or if it was a gift from someone. It was always on the porch for anyone who wanted to sit for a spell. And several years ago, the week I laid on the couch sick from anemia, my Daddy decided the old rocker needed a new paint job. It’s funny now as I look back on that week. I do believe Daddy and Mama thought I was near death–Mama went to her sewing machine, creating a new bed covering with ruffles with the smallest of blue flowers for me. And Daddy, painting the rocking chair white.

My Grandma Lackey, she had these cherry trees planted in the back yard and every season she fought tooth and nail with the birds for enough cherries to make one pie–just one pie was all she wanted. And she would hang rubber hoses in the tree, disguised them as snakes, hung aluminum pie pans among the limbs and there was this one time my AM/FM red battery operated radio went to missing. And there it was among the ripening cherries and the birds–music blaring as loud as that old radio would play–trying to scare the birds away.

Grandma hadn’t been out of the hospital long and she wanted to check on her cherries so she and myself, my children–her great grandchildren, my Mama, and our neighbor walked with her to see her beloved trees–her body still frail and weak. And my neighbor said, ‘I just don’t think Ruby’s going to pull out of this, do you?’, talking to my Mom. And I was so hurt and angry at her–her words cruel at the time, I thought. Words my heart didn’t want to hear.

The following month my Grandma passed away.

The Sunday after my Grandma’s funeral I saw my Grandpa sitting on the front porch–all alone in the red rocker. And I went to sit with him for a while. I asked him if he wanted to go into the house and rest and he said no. He was going to sit there. All day. He was expecting company, he said. Family and friends. No one ever came that day.

And the last color on the rocker, painted several years ago–ocean blue. The color was to be a reminder of the vibrant blues of the ocean and change. The roar of the waves–the sun glistening on the water, God’s breath in the winds, His mighty creation. Every time I experience this peace, this beauty, it changes me. Every. Single. Time.

It’s funny how simple things such as colors woven in an old piece of furniture can jolt memories–some hard to remember and some you never want to forget.

And the porch rocker–there won’t be any covering of the memories with black paint or any other color. Not today.

BRAVE fAITH–yOUNG HEARTS

He was sitting at home in front of a screen on this Sabbath morning as many of us have done over the past six months—listening to the message–God’s word. The pastor was reading from the book of Luke and the verse, Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer. (Luke 21:14).  And he preached on the need to settle in our hearts—commit to the Lord and since the pandemic many young people had decided to settle it in their hearts.

Midway through the service  the church doors opened and this young man,  he walked straight up to the altar.  He didn’t wait on an altar call—he knew in his heart the one who was calling him and he couldn’t wait any longer.  And he bowed on his knees—asking God for forgiveness and Jesus, into his heart.   And right there, he settled it.  The Lord and him. 

She was listening with her Mama–Wednesday evening service.  Little ears hearing the message of the gospel preached so much so a child could understand.  Quietly she went into another room by herself, got down on knees–knees barely five-years old and asked Jesus to come into her heart. And once the church doors opened again she sat on the steps of the altar alongside her pastor and he read her God’s Holy scriptures about salvation–forgiveness. And once again, she said the words, I am saved and shared she wanted to be baptized. 

The message on my phone read, ‘My daughter wanted me to tell you, she got saved tonight.’ And I could only imagine her seven-year-old smile and the scene where she asked her Mama more questions and then bowed with her Grandpa and prayed.  And she too accepted Jesus into her heart during the time services were cancelled. 

He wiped tender tears from his cheeks and his step-Dad placed a gentle hand on his back and they walked back into the church after Sunday service had long ended.  Our pastor, this boy and his step-Dad sitting on the altar–settling it in his young heart. And the altar, it is always open.  

And last Sunday our pastor shared with us another young person in our congregation gave their heart to Jesus. His church–the doors are never closed.  

Right in the middle of what seems to be a forever pandemic. And five young people give their hearts to Jesus–trusting in Him with childlike faith.  Long before COVID closed our sanctuaries, Sunday School classroom chairs sat empty–there were roots planted.  Deep plantings in these children’s hearts in sacred places–in the sanctuary–the Sunday School classroom– homes, and yes, even in schools.   

I met with her on a summer day–6 feet apart with masks covering our smiles.  She’s registering for her first year of college.  And she’s excited. Her plans are to study to become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of children.  We planned her schedule, talked about future plans and said our good-byes.  

My office phone rang just shortly after that and it was her– the same young lady who shares the name of a woman in the Old Testament whose bravery helped King David fight against the enemy.  

She said, ‘After I left school, God laid it on my heart to pray for you, pray over you, Ms. Miller.  Is it okay if I pray for you now?’ And there over the phone lines she asked God to keep me safe and the students safe during our meetings and continued blessings for the upcoming school year.

Our young people–they are doing hard things.  They are doing brave things.  And they are listening to the call of obedience.  God–He is calling some mighty warriors in the next generation and we as adults need to take notice.  The church will only be as strong as the body of believers are united.  And our young people–they are leading the way.   

Romans 10:17, So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Photos by Jill Miller Woodie

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